The NFL 2021 Draft was the 86th National Football League Draft, the annual meeting of National Football League (NFL) franchises to select newly eligible players for the 2021 NFL season. The draft was held in Cleveland, Ohio, from April 29 to May 1, 2021.
And in the recent fashion of Nigerian-Americans breaking into mainstream sports in the United States as well as other countries, the NFL 2021 Draft was not without its share of Nigerian-American prospects.
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the Nigerian-American picks of the 2021 NFL Draft!
Jayson Oweh was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, which they previously obtained in a trade that sent Orlando Brown Jr. to the Kansas City Chiefs. Soon after the selection, Oweh announced that he would be going by his first name Odafe instead of his middle name Jayson, which he went by in college to avoid confusion regarding the pronunciation of his first name.
He was ranked among the top 100 overall recruits nationally despite playing basketball until his junior year at New Jersey’s Blair Academy.
Levi Onwuzurike redshirted his true freshman season. As a redshirt freshman, he recorded 16 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Onwuzurike played in all 14 of the Huskies games with four starts in his redshirt sophomore season and finished the year with 34 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
He was named first team All-Pac-12 as a redshirt junior after recording 45 tackles, six tackles for loss, and two sacks with a blocked kick on special teams. In September 2020, Onwuzurike announced he was opting out of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and would prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
As a senior at Allen High School, Levi Onwuzurike was named the Dallas Morning News’ All-Area Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. He opted out of the 2020 season to accept an invitation to the Senior Bowl.
The 6′ 3″ R-Senior Class player is the No. 41 pick in the NFL 2021 Draft.
Ifeatu Melifonwu who arrived Syracuse after a strong high school (Grafton High) career, led the Orange with eight pass breakups in nine games (eight starts). He started all 11 games his squad played in the 2020 season and received third-team All-ACC honors.
After redshirting his first year in 2017, he played in 29 games over the next three seasons. He finished his career with 88 tackles, three interceptions and one sack. After his junior season in 2020, he declared for the NFL 2021 Draft.
He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the third round as the no. 101 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
A former four-star recruit, Azeez Ojulari who played in three games as a reserve while maintaining the year of eligibility, redshirted his first season in Athens and led the Bulldogs with 5.5 sacks in 2019. He was a co-winner of the team’s Most Improved Defensive Player award with 13 starts in 14 games.
The 6′ 2″ R-Sophomore Class player is the No. 50 pick in the NFL 2021 Draft.
The son of Nigerian immigrants, Dayo Odeyingbo was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Irving, Texas, where he attended Ranchview High School. He had 108 tackles and 12 sacks over the course of his high school career. Odeyingbo committed to play college football at Vanderbilt over offers from Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Colorado, Baylor, and Purdue.
Odeyingbo was a member of the Vanderbilt Commodores for four seasons. As a senior, he was named second team All-SEC after recording 32 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in eight games. Odeyingbo finished his collegiate career with 125 tackles, 31.0 tackles for loss, and 12.0 sacks. He tore his achilles tendon while preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft.
The 6′ 5″ Senior Class player is the No. 54 pick in the NFL 2021 Draft.
Born in Nigeria, Joseph’s family moved to the United States when he was 10. He has since gone on to becomes a finalist for the Houston Touchdown Club’s Defensive Player of the Year and a top-150 overall recruit nationally.
As a true freshman, Ossai played in all 14 of the Longhorns’ games with two starts and made 20 total tackles with one a sack and a forced fumble. He led the team with 62 tackles and 5 sacks in his sophomore season while also recording five sacks, two interceptions, one pass broken up, one forced fumble and also blocked a kick.
Ossai was named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy watchlists entering his junior season. As a Junior, he had 55 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks. On December 14, 2020, Ossai announced his decision to enter the 2021 NFL draft, choosing to forgo Texas’ 2020 Bowl game and his senior season.
The 6′ 4″ Junior Class player is the No. 76 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
A three-star recruit out of Portland’s David Douglas High School and three-time state wrestling champion, Osa Odighizuwa played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman. He started the final eight games of the 2018 season, playing in 11 contests all togehther.
Odighizuwa attended David Douglas High School where he was a two-time defensive player of the year and received PrepStar All-West honors as a senior. He lettered in wrestling, where he won three straight state championships. He also practiced track for one season.
As a redshirt freshman, he appeared in all 13 games as a backup defensive tackle. He collected 15 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss (tied for fifth on the team) and one sack. He had 3 tackles and one sack against the University of Oregon. He returned a fumble for a 51-yard touchdown against the University of Washington. He made 2 tackles for loss and one sack against the University of Hawai’i.
As a sophomore, he appeared in 11 games, starting at defensive tackle in the final 8. He registered 29 tackles, 3 sacks (tied for second on the team), 6 tackles for loss (tied for third on the team) and 2 pass breakups. He had 5 tackles against the University of Colorado and the University of Washington.
As a junior, he was named the starter at defensive tackle. He tallied 46 tackles (fifth on the team), 3.5 sacks (third on the team) and 10 tackles for loss (tied for the team lead). He had 9 tackles against San Diego State University.
As a senior, the football season was reduced to 7 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was a starter at defensive tackle, posting 30 tackles (sixth on the team), 4 sacks (second on the team) and 6 tackles for loss (third on the team). He had 6 tackles against the University of Colorado and Arizona State University. He made 2.5 tackles against the University of California. He received first-team All-Pac-12 honors.
The 6′ 2″ R-Senior Class player is the 75th Pick in the 2021NFL Draft.
So, there you have it, the list of Nigerian-Americans picked in the 2021 NFL Draft!
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi
Elijah Christopher is a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.